Last night I kept poking my head out of the tent hoping the full moon would pass through the narrow swath of clear sky above. I had to settle for a perfectly framed Big Dipper, and later, the bright moonlight filtered through the trees. So it goes.
The trail is a narrow ribbon today, so overgrown you’d never think it was the PCT. I wade through ferns, push aside maples, and tunnel through thickets of flowering shrubs humming with insect activities.
I do my best to go slow, pausing to look at butterflies, to admire the many flowers (paintbrush, purple and yellow lupine, entire meadows of red columbine, orange Sierra lilies, meadow larkspur and many others I have no hope of naming from memory). Shasta is on the horizon too, looming large and brilliant white, the perfect excuse to put my feet up for a while.
I pass four hikers headed south to the Sierra, having flipped to Ashland to avoid the worst of the snow. But our conversations are short; there’s a kind of awkward brevity between long distance hikes heading in opposite directions, as if we are not even walking the same trail.
I am tired on this first full day on trail, in the heat, but I can’t camp until I get to water, scarce high on the hills, miles ahead at Moosehead creek. My arrival is a bit complicated. There’s a man there, sitting in a too big tent on a heavy blue tarp. He’s friendly, but definitely not a thru hiker. His gear must weigh 80 pounds. He has a compass around his neck, but without maps or phone or apps I don’t understand how he finds his way. “I use it to find North to follow the trail” he says, before admitting to mostly following the indentations of trekking pole tips in the ground. Good thing, I think to myself, since the trail meanders mostly west and sometimes south this stretch as we skirt Shasta. More of his story seems strange though and I feel uncomfortable staying. So I go fill my bottles and weigh my options: crash here and be uneasy all night or carry water to dry camp in a mile and a bit at the top of the hill.
The possibility of a view campsite to make up for yesterday tips the scales and I make too many excuses, mumbling on about getting up out of the bugs and missing the solstice moon and it being early for me and all, and up I go with water for tonight and to get me 10 more miles in the morning.
The site up the hill does have expansive views, but it’s light on soil so I have to use rocks to pitch my tent. And then I notice a very strong pee smell, which I trace to a large wet spot that is now in my vestibule. Lovely. But I am being attacked by biting flies in a whole spectrum of sizes, and swarmed by a variety of bees, so in I go. At least I can still watch the distant hills fade from green to blue from the safety of my sleeping bag, the joy only slightly dampened by the lingering hint of urine. With a bit of luck, I will even get to see the almost full moon for my own belated solstice.
June 21, 2016
PCT Mile: 1446